Thursday, December 2, 2010

Didion's New Memoir

I loved Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking -- beautiful, raw, poignant, exacting -- and was delighted to hear that she has a new memoir coming soon -- on aging. To which I have to say, "Just in time."

I was mouthing off yesterday about writing having a long endgame, that you get better simply as a function of the passage of time (though without hours in the chair, your craft will flounder).

What's surprised me in my own writing is that I started out very narrow -- I was a devotee of the short story, the Great American Form -- and had shrugged off any other kinds of writing. Eventually, I wanted to tell the truth about something in an essay. Essays are the bridges between fiction and poetry. Whenever you hear a poet or fiction writer are writing essays, they're on the bridge and might wind up on the other side. (Personally, I prefer when a poet becomes a fiction writer than vice versa, the way I did it....) I've already discussed how I became a novelist on this blog and I think how I started writing for the short people among us. And essays kept coming all along the way -- a few screenplays. Historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy ... now dystopic, post-apocalyptic get thrown on the list. I had accepted the pervasive cultural assumption that aging is a process of narrowing, of weeding out, of selectivity -- winnowing. Turns out not to be the case -- at least not mine, not so far. Granted, I'm only mid-game.

I've also worried that, as I age, I'll continue to become more grounded, less imaginative, more of the earth. Honestly, I think I've gotten odder and less tethered. I'm less dreamy than my child self, true. But my teen and twenties self was hunkered down to practicality -- for the sake of survival. And now I'm aware of my dreaminess; it's a practice. I don't take it for granted.

I assume that Didion will be discussing actual aging -- not simply writerly aging. Honestly, she could write about shoelaces and I'd want to read it.

Here's the link to a quick bit on the new work and her thoughts on blogging, of all things.